If you saw a live news report of an alien invasion on a network you trusted, would you believe it? Rhum & Clay’s production of The War of the Worlds poses that exact question to its audience.
The lighting is enough to make you believe in aliens
Orson Wells’ 1938 radio broadcast was an iconic moment in media history, partly due to the rumours that some Americans believed it to be a real news story. Are we more or less gullible in 2019 than those original listeners? Isley Lynn’s sensational script compares stories from the original broadcast to the ‘fake news’ phenomenon we face as a society in the 21st century. Who is to blame? The people spreading false or misleading information, or the consumers who don’t bother to fact check? Do we really just believe what we want to believe, no matter what?
The cast are absolutely in sync, moving seamlessly through each scene—flashbacks, commentary, live reporting—travelling over continents and through time with ease and deliberation. Both the lighting and sound design rely heavily on precise cues and rigid timing, all carried off flawlessly (at least from an audience perspective). Matthew Wells deserves special mention for his incredible choreography (or movement, as described in the programme) which aids the scene transitions admirably and adds to the overall high production value. The set is inventive and perfectly suited for the purpose—simple and clean, but with many extra features invisible to the audience until the exact right moment. At some points, the lighting is enough to make you believe in aliens. What other show can say that?
Jess Mabel Jones is very believable as the ambitious young reporter with a conscience, while Amalia Vitale’s portrayal of Lawson is so vibrant you will almost feel like you know the character personally. Wells adds a splash of comic relief as Ted, the vaping internet troll living in his parent’s basement (figuratively speaking), while Julian Spooner, alongside Vitale, brings an element of vulnerability and authenticity to the show’s heartwarming Skype reunion scene.
Rhum & Clay have an uncanny ability to place the audience exactly where they need to be to fully appreciate every facet of the story. We are in the radio studio, at the UFO crash site, in small town America, seated around the dinner table. But above all, we are at a masterful and unforgettable performance at the Fringe.